The Haunted Blue Cactus
Nana’s house is empty. It took days to reach this point and only the attic remains. Tomorrow, a new family will be moving in.
Boxes of memories litter the paved front yard. Waiting to be loaded. Full of photos, collectibles, candles, and jars of unidentifiable, but likely useful herbs, the crates are all that’s left of that ornery, old woman.
With a pang in her heart and sweat on her brow, Emily moves up the dilapidated, wooden stairs. The aroma of decay is nostalgic. The house was renovated many times, but no one besides Nana was ever allowed in this sacred space. Except, of course, her granddaughter.
The dank room smells like dust and mothballs. Light filters unevenly through the single window. There sits a sapphire-hued oddity, beautiful enough to elicit a gasp from the young woman.
A cactus. Deep blue, like a crown jewel.
The vibrant succulent, while gorgeous, isn’t surprising. Her grandmother’s love of botany and her prasinophobia — a fear of the color green — often led her to find or create many plants with bizarre features.
What catches her attention is the pot it’s in. Handmade, the pearl-white container is decorated with slate depictions of landscapes. Delicately painted symbols from the old woman’s casting books hide between the leaves, rivers, and rocks.
Nana hadn’t created this. Emily had. She’d thought she lost the planter when she moved away. Why is it tucked away here? Did Nana use it to focus the spell that turned the cactus blue?
Regardless, it is coming home with Emily.
Back at the apartment, after Ben, her roommate, and the succulent were introduced, they place it on the window sill. It emits a strange scent. Fruity and too sweet. The soil is bone dry, no matter how much water it’s given. When the liquid soaks into the dirt, the plant vibrates. It’s almost imperceptible.
Over time, the smell ripens. They gag on the peculiar stench — floral and rotting. They can’t get used to it, and eating in the house is a chore. Most days, they dine on the balcony, but the stink follows them there as well. It snakes its way into their clothing, hair and…